TUCSON, Ariz. – Andy Lopez, a 33-year coaching veteran and one of the winningest coaches in college baseball, has announced his retirement as head coach at The University of Arizona. Lopez, who guided the Wildcats to a pair of College World Series appearances and the 2012 national championship, spent the past 14 years at Arizona after previous coaching stints at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Pepperdine and Florida.
“For the past 14 years, I have been extremely honored to be a part of the Arizona baseball program,” Lopez said. “This is a special place with many special people, and I thank everyone at The University of Arizona for the opportunity to finish my career here.”
“There have been a lot of really good moments in my career,” Lopez explained. “I have been lucky to experience an unbelievable amount of success at the places I have coached. But now I am excited for what is ahead for me and my family. And I’m excited for the future of Arizona baseball. This is a great program and it will always be.”
“I never dreamed this big when I was 12 years old,” Lopez added. “I have loved playing and coaching this game, and it has taken to me all over the world. I have been fortunate to develop life-long relationships that I cherish each and every day, and now I can dedicate more time to the people that mean the most to me.”
Under the direction of Lopez, Arizona restored its championship tradition on the diamond. In 14 seasons at the helm, Lopez led the Wildcats to their first College World Series appearances since 1986, their first regional titles since 1986, their first-ever super regional titles and their first 40-win seasons since 1989. In 2012, Lopez’s club hosted the NCAA Tucson Regional and NCAA Super Regional at Hi Corbett Field, the program’s first time hosting postseason games since 1992.
“Andy Lopez is one of the great coaches college athletics has ever seen, more importantly he is a better man,” said UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne. “We’ve been so fortunate to have Andy as the leader of our baseball program for the last 14 years. While we’ll certainly miss his presence on a day-to-day basis, Andy will forever be engrained in the history of Arizona baseball and remembered for his ability to lead and mentor young men. We can’t thank him enough for all he has done for both the program and Arizona Athletics as a whole.”
Lopez’s resolute efforts to return the Wildcats to national prominence culminated in the sensational 2012 season. The Pac-12 co-champions, Arizona went a perfect 10-0 in the postseason, winning the Tucson Regional and Tucson Super Regional en route to the school’s 16th all-time College World Series, where the team never trailed in five contests and defeated two-time defending national champion South Carolina in the best-of-three championship series.
The title was Arizona’s fourth as a program and marked Lopez’s second career national championship. The Pac-12 Coach of the Year that season, Lopez also was named national coach of the year by Collegiate Baseball and the American Baseball Coaches Association.
A three-time national coach of the year, Lopez became just the second NCAA Division I head coach to win a title at two schools (Arizona and Pepperdine). He is also one of only three coaches to lead three different schools (Pepperdine, Florida and Arizona) to the College World Series. Further, he is one of four coaches to take two schools to Omaha on multiple occasions (Arizona, Florida).
Throughout his career, Lopez worked closely with pitchers and coached two of the top four all-time team ERAs by NCAA champions (ERA in CWS games only). At the 2012 College World Series, UA’s pitching staff accumulated a team ERA of 1.13 over five games (eight runs in 48 innings). During the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats allowed 20 earned runs in 94.0 innings for a 1.91 ERA.
Arizona won 48 games in 2012, its most victories in a single season since 1986. It was the third time in six seasons that Lopez guided the program to a 40-win season, an annual benchmark the school had not reached since 1989.
Lopez coached the Wildcats to three-consecutive NCAA regional appearances while winning 121 ballgames from 2010-12. His teams placed six members on the All-Conference team in each of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, respectively, with Alex Mejia garnering the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2012.
The groundwork for that 2012 championship club was laid in the 2010 season, which was highlighted by reaching two collegiate milestones. Arizona's season-opening victory over Sacramento State marked the 2,500th all-time win for the program as UA became the seventh school to reach the mark. Later that year on May 16, Lopez became the 16th active and 46th all-time Division I coach to reach 1,000 career victories as his Wildcat team defeated No. 2 Arizona State, 12-4.
Lopez began his collegiate coaching career at Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1983. His teams won league titles in 1986 and `87, and the latter went on to the Division II College World Series. Three different times he was named the conference coach of the year at Dominguez Hills and his 168-152-2 (.525) record in six seasons caught the eye of Southern California neighbor Pepperdine.
Pepperdine hired Lopez to lead the baseball team in 1989 and he began to make waves in Malibu, Calif. right from the start. Over six seasons, he tallied a record of 241-107-3 (.691), including the 1992 campaign when Lopez was named consensus national coach of the year for leading the Waves to their first and only national championship.
In 1995, Lopez began a seven-year stint at the University of Florida, turning the Gators into a top 25 program and a national championship contender with two trips to the College World Series. He won his second national coach of the year honor in 1996.
Lopez’s longest coaching stop became his last here in the Old Pueblo. He won 487 games from 2002-15 with the Wildcats, bringing his career total to 1,174 victories, which ranked 11th-most among active Division I coaches. His career win total stands at No. 29 among all Division I coaches.
His recruiting classes were consistently among the best in the nation. His first class at Arizona earned a respectable No. 10 ranking from Baseball America, which was then followed up with a No. 4 ranking in 2003, a No. 6 ranking in 2004 and a No. 7 ranking in 2005. The 2012 class was rated No. 18 by both Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America.
Player development was always an important part of the program under Lopez. A total of 131 players coached by Lopez throughout his career have signed professional contracts, including an Arizona record seven that were drafted in the first 12 rounds of the 2005 draft.
A total 131 Lopez-coached players have signed professional contracts, 39 have garnered All-America honors, 85 have been named all-conference and in 1998 he helped guide Brad Wilkerson to national player of the year honors and the Golden Spikes Award. At Arizona, he has coached Alex Mejia (2012) and Trevor Crowe (2005) to conference player of the year honors, and Preston Guilmet (2007) to Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.
In 14 years at UA, he had four players selected in the first round and a total of 58 players picked by Major League teams, including 29 that had never been drafted before. Fourteen of Lopez’s UA-coached players have played in Major League Baseball.
Lopez’s journey into collegiate baseball began as a player at Los Angeles Harbor Community College where he played two seasons before transferring to Pac-10 rival UCLA. A 1975 graduate of UCLA, Lopez was the team captain and starting shortstop for the `75 Bruin baseball team. He was drafted in the ninth round by the Detroit Tigers in the amateur draft, but opted to complete his studies in Westwood and begin his coaching career instead of turning pro. He was inducted into UCLA's Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
Upon completion of his studies at UCLA, he got his first coaching job at his junior college alma mater, L.A. Harbor Community College. He spent two seasons as an assistant coach there before moving on to the high school coaching ranks at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, Calif. As head coach, he led Mira Costa to a 108-48 (.692) record over five seasons before being hired at CSU Dominguez Hills.
The 33-year coaching veteran is a member of six local Hall of Fames, including the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame, the UCLA Hall of Fame, the Pepperdine Hall of Game, the L.A. Harbor Community College Hall of Fame, the San Pedro Hall of Fame and the South Bay Hall of Fame.
Throughout his career, Lopez has been actively involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and has twice served as the manager for Athletes in Action. His AIA teams competed internationally in 1982 and `83.
Lopez and his wife, Linda, are the proud parents of four UA graduates, including daughters, Kristi and Kerri, and sons, Michael and David. Both sons played on Arizona’s 2012 national championship team.